This was supposed to be a gift for Lazio. A chance to jump into fourth place on the table, as Milan were coming to the Olimpico missing almost all of our defense and other key players. But despite their best efforts, including 23 shots with a whopping ten of those on target, their chance was spoiled by some grinta and a single moment of brilliance from Suso. And their fourth place plans got hijacked.
I feel like Milan could just take the schedule and get Man of the Match plaques all engraved for Donnarumma for every match ahead of time. The kid had nine saves in this match, many of them one on ones. Which begs the question as to why he is left one on one so often. No surprise that it has happened more often in 2017 and that our results have followed. Our higher possession means nothing when we cannot defend, especially counter attacks. To be fair, Abate had a massive clearance in the 26th which would have seen Immobile go one on one with Donnarumma, so that was one less scare for the kid to deal with. But looking through my notes, “Donnarumma save” is in there way too many times, as well as “Donnarumma massive save.” I know he’s incredible, but let’s let the other players do their jobs, too.
The other big story in this match was the referee, Damato. Well not so much him, but his penalty/non-penalty calls. Immobile auditioned in the 21st and did not get the part. But in the 45th, he did. In a call no one can be certain of, it seemed he may have been tripped by Gomez right around the time Donnarumma made an amazing save. Donnarumma got the ball first, that is certain. But what is unclear from the camera angles is if Gomez got Immobile first. Even with VAR, it would be tough to get this one right. But Damato gave it to Immobile, and Biglia converted the penalty. 1-0 Lazio.
|"Calm down, I haven't earned MOTM yet"|
In the 67th Milan fans wanted a penalty for Abate getting body-checked in the box by Lulic. The foul had all of the criteria for the penalty, but it also had the criteria for a non-call. That probably makes no sense, but once again, we gotta go with what was called, and Damato said no penalty. Personally, I think he was just so surprised that Abate was in the box on goal, he got flustered and just guessed. But it’s okay, because I believe a team should play well enough to win in spite of any ref calls one way or the other. Also, Damato only gave out four cards in this match, all yellow, despite a very physical game, so he gets credit for keeping it to a sanity level that we have missed in the recent cardfests.
In keeping with the disturbingly more common tradition of winning the game late, Suso unleashed his magic in the 85th, courtesy of a Sosa assist. 1-1 all. That goal was like committing a crime. Lazio only had 42% possession, but they were relentless in the first half and still brutal in the second. Milan only had nine shots with only four of them being on goal, but the rest of the time we looked like we were very close to buckling under all of that pressure. However, Suso ripped the hearts out of the Lazio faithful with his single brilliant shot and gave Milan perhaps more than we deserved.
|Love his loyalty and his skills|
Also criminal were some of Montella’s choices and especially his subs. While I get rewarding Poli with the start for an effort in the face of injury on Wednesday, Bertolacci is ex-Roma, and I would have absolutely started him instead. No idea why Ocampos is at Milan, honestly, least of all why he started instead of an actual striker like Bacca or Lapadula. Well I have some idea about the last part, I know both are struggling with this system and have not been scoring. But with four straight losses in all competitions, has Montella thought of perhaps changing the system to fit the players he has, rather than the opposite? No. No, of course he hasn’t.
His subs were weird, too. He pulled Locatelli off in the 53rd. At least he was subbing earlier than usual. And to his credit, Sosa actually had a better game than usual, so it’s hard to begrudge that one. In the 63rd, he finally pulled the lifeless Ocampos from his first Milan start and brought on Lapadula. Lapadula ran and tried to create things, but like most of Montella’s subs, he didn’t make much impact. Finally, he brought on Mati Fernandez in the 77th for Poli. Having removed the starters who were dead weight really seemed to bring the team to life. Well that, and that weird phenomenon of the late game grinta surge. And bonus, Fernandez played 13 minutes without getting injured. Weird how we can create more with more creative players. Huh.
|Probably singlehandedly increasing our possession stats|
I am not thinking about Sunday’s match yet. We’ll have Paletta & Kucka available again, but still missing everyone else we care about. This draw was like a win, and even for those who are frustrated with Damato’s calls and non-calls, we were lucky to take the point. I don’t know if it was fair to Lazio for the effort they put into it, but sometimes life isn’t fair. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and sometimes you get hijacked.
This post inspired by the music of Crime & the City Solution’s “The Adversary”
If you haven’t already, check out this week’s Touchline Radio Podcast
I was Adam’s guest talking about my conversion to football, Milan, the Azzurri, and more
Our next match is
Milan vs. Fiorentina
Sunday, February 19 • 20:45 CET (2:45pm EST)
Stay tuned for an all new Milan Obsession Birthday Podcast!